Do Not Say We Have Nothing
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Do Not Say We Have Nothing


“In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. I was ten years old.”

Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the center of this epic story are two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming. Through their relationship Marie strives to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how Kai, her enigmatic father, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming’s father, the shy and brilliant composer, Sparrow, along with the violin prodigy Zhuli were forced to reimagine their artistic and private selves during China’s political campaigns and how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences.

With maturity and sophistication, humor and beauty, Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality.

Title:Do Not Say We Have Nothing
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:480 pages

    Do Not Say We Have Nothing Reviews

  • Diane S ?
    Oct 01, 2016

    A very powerful story, beginning with the cultural revolution and it's effects on one family, followed through to the next generation. A family that is in love with music, Sparrow the composer, young ...

  • Hannah Greendale
    Apr 26, 2017

    A young Chinese girl (Li-Ling), whose English name is Marie, is living with her mother in Vancouver when a relative from China appears at their door: a teenage girl named Ai Ming who seeks refuge afte...

  • Hugh
    Sep 27, 2016

    This is a novel of epic scope and ambition, a complex family story that starts in the China of the 1950s and ends in the present day. The pivotal events are the Cultural Revolution, and specifically t...

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    Oct 04, 2016

    I started this book as a review copy eBook, and finished it with the print from the library (which I think we got from the UK based on the cover art.) This book is complex and I really enjoyed it. I s...

  • Neil
    Jul 27, 2016

    I think there's always one book on Man Booker Long List that requires me to get a piece of paper and draw a family tree so that I can try to keep track of the relationships between the characters. I h...

  • Rebecca Foster
    Oct 18, 2016

    Hugely surprised this did not win the Booker Prize. If, like me, you know next to nothing about China’s Cultural Revolution and the transition from Chairman Mao to successive leaders, you will learn...

  • Michael
    Oct 22, 2016

    A moving family saga that portrays the lives of three generations through the post-war decades in China. The story interlaces different time points with a focus on the crucial periods of Mao’s Cultu...

  • Trish
    Oct 21, 2016

    There is much to admire in what Thien tried to do in this 2016 Booker- shortlisted novel, and judging from the laudatory reviews, she must have succeeded. Personally, I struggled against the style of ...

  • Britta Bhler
    Jul 30, 2016

    I can see why some readers love this book. The story of two (interconnected) Chinese families in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square-protests, in China, Hongkong and Canada, is certainly interesting...

  • Peter Boyle
    Apr 02, 2017

    "As he played, he remembered standing on the round tables of the teahouses... back when he first imagined that all the world was a song, a performance or a dream, that music was survival and could fil...

About Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien is a Canadian short story writer and novelist.She was educated at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. In 2001 Madeleine was awarded the Canadian Authors Association Air Canada Award for most promising writer under age 30.Thien's first book, Simple Recipes (2001), a collection of short stories, received the City of Vancouver Book Award, the VanCity Book P